Q Outside the concerns of animal-welfare activists, are alligator and lizard skins considered appropriate for men's belts, wallets? And what about shoes?
A Yes, two of them definitely are. Few accessories are more elegant for a man than a rich brown alligator belt. He can wear it with almost anything, even a navy suit. And an alligator wallet makes a man feel rich, even when it's not full of hundred dollar bills.
Because alligator is extremely expensive, belts made of other, less luxurious but almost as attractive skins, such as crocodile and lizard, are increasingly popular. Simple, stylish belts made of a combination of alligator or lizard with calf leather are a lot less expensive than a genuine alligator belt and might satisfy a man's desire to own one of these special accessories. Even so, a good guideline is: One quality belt is better than five that are run-of-the-mill.
Since these skins are so distinctive you do need to consider the other clothing/accessories you are wearing. If the color or texture of the rest of your combination is outstanding in some way, then you should be careful combining them with alligator items. You don't want to appear overdressed. But in general, you can wear these belts with most dressy mixes and with just about any trousers that are a more "dressed up" category than jeans.
In many ways ostrich- and-leather accessories parallel basic leather, except that they have a more stylish look. Ostrich is slightly different from leather in that it has an interesting perforated texture. It can add a distinctive bit of style and be an upgrade, without being flamboyant.
While these skins may be something of a "show-off" item, they can be worn in certain traditional suit settings. Still, you would want everything else you are wearing to be on the quiet, tasteful side. That said, they can be smart looking and can definitely raise the level of your entire combination.
Now, while the luxury of alligator in a belt or a wallet is widely considered to be top-drawer dressing, oddly, the same is not true for alligator shoes. Alligator, crocodile and lizard shoes --particularly in lace-up styles -- do not generally say good things about the wearer. Most men who are traditionally elegant dressers consider them far too slick and showy, with strong negative connotations ... mobster attire. I cannot tell you why this is so: I only know that it is. One place where ostrich would be appropriate is a pair of nice cowboy boots.
Keep in mind that with these skins you usually get what you pay for; a cheaper skin garment will likely be either imitation, patchwork or poorly constructed. Also, while I often suggest considering buying "gently used" purchases for high-ticket items, here the wear on a skin can show immediately or after a few wearings. Make sure that the belt is in fine condition. Needless to say, you probably are not interested in buying, or wearing, anyone's gently used shoes.
Note: The one exception to avoiding alligator shoes might be plain, simply-cut alligator loafers. In some circles, such as fashion, the arts and other glamour industries, these might be admired. But notice the words "might be." Most traditional dressers consider alligator loafers in the same glitzy category as lace-up skin shoes.
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